Known for their rebellious vibe, Fender Jaguars continue to be one of rock music’s favorite guitars, but are they good for metal? It would be hard to imagine some heavy-riffing axemen raising hell on an instrument that came out the same year The Beatles released their first single.
A bad mofo in its own right, the iconic Fender Jaguar was launched in 1962, almost a decade before Black Sabbath introduced the world to a darker variant of rock and roll known as heavy metal. Jaguars back then experienced a mild level of popularity via the sanitized surf rock of The Beach Boys, especially when singer-songwriter Carl Wilson strapped on a white version of the guitar during the opening scene of the movie The Monkey’s Uncle.
However, the Fender Jaguar’s rise to fame was quickly derailed when British rockers invaded the world and almost decimated surf rock. Consequently, the Jaguar was discontinued in 1975 until they found a new crowd when punk rock became the next big thing in the mainstream.
Punk exploded right after the Jaguar was taken out of production and the 80s and 90s saw the Jaguar’s resurrection at the hands of alternative and shoegaze bands such as Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth. At the height of the Jaguar’s fame, it definitely embodied the free spirit and brashness of rock music, but never found a place in metal probably because of its image as an instrument for plain t-shirt and Chuck Taylor-wearing garage bands.
Can you use a Fender Jaguar for metal?
Metal is a rigid culture that is more serious, as well as mysterious and the cool aesthetics of the Jaguar didn’t fit well with the malevolent look of death metal bands such as Carcass or Obituary. The headbangers didn’t necessarily hate the Jaguar, they just had other options in the form of the likes of B.C. Rich and LTD guitars.
But this doesn’t mean that Fender Jaguars aren’t capable of providing guitar players a headbanging good time. In fact, throngs of metalheads on the internet have taken the liberty to experiment and prove that the Jaguar is an axe that is also capable of conjuring some brutal tones while instigating pure mayhem in the form of highly-technical riffs and licks.
Fender Jaguars may not be the perfect choice for metal, but they sure aren’t exclusively limited to the tears-inducing music of The Smiths or Echo and the Bunnymen. A few tweaks can turn the Jaguar into an absolute behemoth that even the most blackened metal guitarists will surely love.
Ways to make a Fender Jaguar sound good for metal
Because Fender Jaguars aren’t designed for the heavy-chugging world of metal, we can’t expect it to be shredding straight out of the box. A little extra effort is needed to bring the beast out of your instrument.
There are many ways to transform this punk icon into a dedicated metal machine and here are some of them:
Give it some good metal mixing
Utilizing the neck pickups more while EQing your amplifier in a way that will bring out more body and low end, can help your Jaguar achieve a much heavier sound. Try adding some mids and a little more lows to bring more grit to your tone.
Use heavier-sounding distortion pedals
Whatever guitar you have in your lineup right now, distortion pedals that are particularly engineered for heavy genres are a necessity. Beef up the sound of your Fender Jaguar to make it good for metal, by obtaining any of these hard-hitting distortion pedals:
- Blackstar LT Metal High Gain Distortion
- Dunlop MXR M116 Fullbore Metal Distortion Pedal
- Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff Distortion with Top Boost
- Empress Effects Heavy Dual-Channel Distortion Pedal
- Friedman BE-OD Deluxe Dual Overdrive Pedal
- JHS Sweet Tea V3
- Rocktron Metal Planet Distortion Pedal
- TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion Effect Pedal
- Wampler Triple Wreck V2
Customize the pickups
Guitarists who have decided to incorporate the Jaguar into their arsenal, went out of their way to upgrade their instrument into a full-fledged metal weapon by installing a pair of humbucking pickups. This is a surefire way of turning your Fender Jaguar into a more metal-worthy guitar.
Tune down your Jaguar
Any electric guitar tuned down a whole step lower will sound much heavier. You can also experiment on other alternate tunings prevalent in metalcore such as drop C. If you are feeling a bit more 2000s nu metal, utilize the good old drop D for good measure.
Choose your metal well
Metal has evolved so much through the decades that it has gotten harder to see the similarities between modern bands such as Obscura and old school pioneers like Motorhead.
Fender Jaguars will struggle to deliver the intensity of progressive/djent groups such as Animals As Leaders or Born of Osiris, due to the fact that they are using instruments equipped with highly-evolved electronics that helped shape those particular styles of metal.
While you shouldn’t limit yourself to the likes of Judas Priest, Slayer and Pantera, embrace the fact that Fender Jaguars are good for dirtier-sounding, more ominous variants of metal that came out during the first three decades of the genre’s development.